singing bowls and mindfulness for children – inspired by Thich Nhat Hahn

In a previous post, I mentioned my retreat experience with the wonderful Thich Nhat Hahn. One of the mindfulness practices that struck a chord with me was ‘inviting the bell to sing’. This is my interpretation of what this means and how you can teach children to practise using this to help aid their meditation.

‘Inviting the bell’ to sing is where a singing bowl or bell is used as a form of meditation practise. It is something we can use to help children learn mindfulness, meditation and to help improve their concentration levels.

The Bell Master
The ‘bell master’ is the person who is responsible for inviting the bell to sing. If you are working with a group of children it could be that a meditation takes place each day where a child takes their turn as a ‘bell master’. Perhaps they are recognised as the bell master for their kindness to others or good behaviour or the most progress in their school work – it’s up to you how you use this to help motivate children.

Namaste
The bell (singing bowl) sits in front of the bell master. They focus on their breath and bring their hands into Namaste (palms facing and touching – hands at the centre of their chest which is the energy of their heart centre – just like this picture on the right). They bow to the bell and in doing so they are bowing to the peaceful energy of the bell and the peaceful energy within them.

They focus on their breath and with awareness of their breath they lift the bowl with both hands (gently).

Inviting the Bell to Sing
They allow the bowl to rest in the palm of one hand (with the fingers stretched out as their fingers were petals of a flower opened out in full bloom).

With their other hand they carefully, mindfully, lift the ‘bell inviter’ (the wooden mallet used to invite the bell to sing). We show the children that we are not hitting the bell as this represents violence – instead we are inviting the bell to sing.

As they focus on their breath, they can silently or out loud (you might help them with this) repeat a little *poem to the bell;

As I breathe in I notice this beautiful bell
As I breathe out, I open my heart to the bell
As I breathe in I let my breath touch my heart to the bell
As I breathe out I ask the bell to sing and touch the hearts of others with peace

Then they bring the mallet gently to the bell to ‘awaken’ it by gently touching it. Then the next time they take the mallet more firmly to the bell, they hear the bell sing.

Breathing with the bell

When the bell is singing, you and your children can listen to it (eyes closed or open) whilst breathing with the sound. Either following the sound and thinking about it taking its vibration of peace into the world, or following the sound into their body to feel the peaceful energy within. (Some adults like to encourage children to raise their hand when they no longer hear the sound… this helps with focus and concentration).

Usually the bell is invited to sing 3 times though it’s up to you how many times you choose to do this. You can use a singing bowl or a bell.

I also found this link (which has a Buddhist perspective) but gives you an idea of how a bell is invited to sing. It’s useful to see it in action. Video of Inviting Bells to sing

I like to begin (and sometimes end) a longer meditation practise with groups using ‘inviting the bell to sing’ or it becomes a short meditation in its own right.

Alternative Mindfulness Bells

Sometimes we can use the day-to-day noise in our environment for this mindfulness of breath and sound. The school bell (before everyone moves), an ambulance siren, a timed ring on a mobile phone, a door bell, a bird singing… choosing one to work with and when hearing this stopping somewhere safe (sitting or standing, closing their eyes and noticing their breath and the sound).

Useful Resources

Video of Inviting Bells to sing
Singing Bowl CD – This is a CD I like to play with the singing bowls (and I find it very helpful sometimes with children who are on the Autistic Spectrum in helping them feel calmer)

Sound Healing in ScotlandUsing sound for meditation and healing – in Scotland

 

*I have since found the full ‘gatha’ that is used for inviting the bell to sing…

“With body, speech and mind in perfect oneness
I send my heart along with the sound of the bell.
May all who hear it awaken from forgetfulness
And transcend all anxiety and sorrow.”

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